October 16, 2002by Israel Foulon LLP
Question: We have had a number of problems with one of our employees but have not yet taken any steps to terminate her. Two days ago the employee left a letter of resignation on the desk of our HR manager, who was out of the office for the day. Before the HR manager had an opportunity to read the letter of resignation, the employee went to the president of the company and said she no longer wished to resign. The president said he would have to discuss the situation with the HR manager. Is the employee’s resignation effective even though it was revoked before anyone knew about it?
Answer: When an employee resigns, it is one of the few instances in which an employment relationship can end without giving rise to an obligation on the part of the employer to provide the employee with notice or pay in lieu of notice. However, for a resignation to be effective it must be given voluntarily and without duress, and it must be unequivocally accepted by the employer. If the employee withdraws the resignation before the employer has accepted it, it is not binding or enforceable.
An employee is entitled to withdraw a resignation at any time before acceptance by the employer. Since the employee indicated she no longer wished to resign before the resignation was accepted, it is not effective. As such, if you try to hold her to that resignation you will be deemed to have terminated her employment and will be responsible for any damages for wrongful dismissal.
Peter Israel is the senior partner in the Toronto law firm of Israel Foulon LLP – Employment and Labour Lawyers. He can be reached at 416-640-1550 or firstname.lastname@example.org. A version of this article originally appeared in the Carswell publication, Canadian Employment Law Today